Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes – A Series of Mysteries by Laurie R. King

Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell booksLast summer I was sheltering from the rain in one of the many second-hand bookshops in Hay-on-Wye, and my eye was caught by a book. That book turned out to be from a popular series of books charting the later years of Sherlock Holmes, and his partnership with a young woman named Mary Russell. The first of these, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice begins in 1915, when Sherlock is supposedly retired, focusing his incredible mind on the mysteries of beekeeping. It is told in the enigmatic voice of Mary Russell.   

I was fifteen when I first met Sherlock Holmes, fifteen years old with my nose in a book as I walked the Sussex Downs, and nearly stepped on him. In my defence, I must say it was an engrossing book, and it was very rare to come across another person in that particular part of the world in that war year of 1915. In my seven weeks of peripatetic reading amongst the sheep (which tended to move out of the way) and the gorse bushes (to which I had developed an instinctive awareness) I had never before stepped on a person.

Mary’s voice and personality come through clearly in the text. She literally stumbles upon Sherlock Holmes lying on the ground, watching bees, and their rather unusual friendship develops from there. Holmes is impressed, and taken aback to discover a mind as agile and perceptive as his own. Mary is an unconventional young lady, determined not to be held back by the expectations of the world around her, and she makes an unusual but eager apprentice to the great detective, who cannot resist seeking out fresh mysteries to solve.

As the books progress, their relationship grows, until they become equal partners, eventually getting married and solving many cases together. The whole concept of these books is strange, but it doesn’t stop at the Russell / Holmes partnership. Mary Russell’s fascination with theology leads them into some very unusual situations, including a feminist cult in the second book, led by a woman who appears to be a kind of modern-day mystic.

These are slow-paced, detailed mysteries which take you in unexpected directions, and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading four of the books so far. Mary is an intriguing character, with her own tragic past, and I look forward to meeting her again.

The first book in the series is The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King. You can see a list of the titles on the author’s website.